COP TALES: You won’t believe this scam, fraud case

Cop Tales are true stories as told by law enforcement officers from all over the country. The stories are told in the first person. The actual officer’s initials follow each story.

An acquaintance of mine was searching for a job and found one listed on one of the job recruiter sites. It advertised for an administrative assistant position at a popular business. She applied for the job and was asked to provide a resume. She was then notified by e-mail that she was selected for the job. She was very excited to get to work. He advised her she would be handling their charity work while he was out of the country on a business trip.

The first day, he sent her a check by overnight mail and directed her to cash the check, exchange it for Bitcoin and send it to a children’s charity. She completed her task. The next day, he repeated the directions and she completed them as ordered. After two more days, she told her mother that something didn’t seem right. She wondered why she would have to cash the checks and exchange them to Bitcoin. Why didn’t he just have the checks sent to the charities?

Her mother called me and described the situation. She asked me if it sounded like it may be money laundering. I told her it was definitely a scam of some sort. I called a retired FBI supervisor and he agreed it was a scam and directed me to call the FBI when they opened on Monday.

That Saturday night, I was thinking about the situation and wondered how she was able to cash checks made out to her new business. I called her mother and asked whose name was on the original checks. She advised that the checks were made out to her daughter. I knew right away how the scam worked. I told her to check her bank statements for fictitious checks. Unfortunately, the cashed checks returned as fraudulent and her daughter was charged for all the cashed checks. The total loss to her daughter was in excess of $20,000.

The bank advised they were charging her daughter the loss of all the money because she was the one who actually cashed the check. When I spoke to the bank managers and police detectives, they advised that that type of scam happens all the time all over the country and the banks do not reimburse the money because the account was not hacked. Since her daughter actually received money, they do not cover it.

Her daughter would be charged the $20,000. It turns out that it is a very common scam, which usually originates outside the country. The suspects also use counterfeit phone numbers so the victims see a local number. They have the cash exchanged to Bitcoin or another type of digital exchange so it cannot be traced very easily, if at all.

Today, there are so many scams and fraud programs going around. In this case, if you see a job that is advertised, especially one that is very attractive, do not trust them. Do your research. Do not give them any of your personal information without investigating the employer to make sure they are legitimate. Meet with them personally at their business office. You can even check with the Better Business Bureau.

And, never allow any person or business to use your name or bank account to cash their checks. I don’t like to advertise, but you may consider subscribing to one of the financial protection agencies. There are a lot of evil people out there who are always looking to take advantage of trusting victims; don’t be one of them.

Working with them on their last shift

In 1978, I was assigned to work speed enforcement on the interstate with three other units and the highway patrol helicopter. The highway patrol has airplanes and helicopters to assist in traffic enforcement. The airship would pace the vehicles from above and advise the officers on the ground which vehicles to stop and dictate their speed. The flight observer would watch to make sure we stopped the correct vehicle.

After completing my assignment with the helicopter, I returned to the office and finished my paperwork. While the helicopter was flying back to the hanger, it crashed and burned right off the freeway. The helicopter struck a power line support that apparently was not visible in the approaching darkness. Both highway patrol officers were killed upon impact. It was a tragic event. I will always remember that I worked with those officers on their last assignment.

Better to live here, than work here

I grew up in an area that had tule fog every winter. When I joined the highway patrol, I was sent to a city that didn’t have much fog. Four years later, I was able to transfer back to my home area and I quickly remembered the dangers of that thick fog. In our area, we had a causeway that had three lanes that extended three miles in each direction. The causeway was an elevated structure that was built over rice fields with no shoulders and no center median.

One morning in thick fog, I received a call of a non-injury accident at the east end of town. I responded and found the collision on an overcrossing in the city, which was not our jurisdiction. A city police officer was standing by and when I told him the accident was in his jurisdiction, he argued that I should handle the accident since it went over the freeway. I told him I would handle it and he could be on his way.

Before I completed the investigation, dispatch advised there was a multiple vehicle collision on the causeway. I knew it didn’t sound good, so I told the current drivers that I would complete their report later and they were free to leave. I then entered the freeway and headed toward the multi-car accident. As I entered the causeway, I saw several vehicles blocking all the westbound lanes. I advised dispatch of the situation, but as I continued eastbound, I could hear multiple vehicles crashing into cars that were already blocking the lanes.

As I turned around at the end of the causeway, I realized I had just passed cars stacked up, which blocked all the lanes for approximately three miles. I drove as far as I could into the scene as my beat partner shut down the freeway. My partner and I walked through the wreckage and triaged everyone for injuries. As it turned out, there were 77 vehicles involved and we had to document and investigate every one of them.

Since one of the vehicles was hauling batteries, which were damaged and spilled all over the roadway, it had to be handled as a hazardous materials incident as well. While I was working on that 77-vehicle report, one of the drivers from that earlier non-injury accident stopped by the office and wanted to pick up his three-page report. I told him it was already finished and was sent to the city police department for distribution. I was hoping the other 77 drivers wouldn’t be expecting their reports that quickly.

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